The stats 

  • According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising.

  • And according to a study conducted by Search Engine Land, 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

  • Another study by nToklo suggests that UK retailers that don’t offer a platform for customer recommendations could be missing out by as much as £9bn in extra revenue!

But there are more influence-based forces at work than friends and review sites. Other factors, such as bloggers, forums and site iconography, are playing an equally important role in influencing web conversion rates.

Be nice to bloggers

According to Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report, blogs are now the third most influential digital resource for consumers making purchases, behind only retail sites and brand sites.

Facebook, often favoured by marketers driving brand awareness, comes in fourth. Why is this? Bloggers tend to be impartial, honest and sincere in their reviews, and so become a trusted source of information.

Identifying prominent bloggers in your sector, reaching out to them and forming strong relationships can pay website conversion rate dividends.

Influence, not audience

That said, over half of those surveyed agreed that smaller communities have a greater influence on a topic than larger ones (54%).

While brands and organisations often fixate on increasing the size of their following, the real value of online communities lies in discussing ideas and sharing information – traits most frequently associated with smaller online groups.

Popularity doesn’t always equal trust, therefore it’s worth identifying less popular bloggers, or vocal forum members, who have earned the trust of their peers. 

Send positive signals

The way your site looks will have enormous influence on potential customers. Some basic visual cues are a must:

This last point, in bold for big emphasis, is vital. Reviews give a huge boost to customer confidence, and research by BuildASign indicates a 7% increase in website conversion rates when visitors see a feed of reviews (as opposed to static ‘testimonials’ of dubious origin), compared to those with no reviews.

Furthermore, those presented with reviews are 7.3 times more likely to share the site with friends, and we all know how important peer recommendations are!

But remember, you can earn trust yourself

In the above Market Force study, 78% of consumers said the posts companies make on social media influence their purchasing decisions. That’s nearly as much as the 81% who said they look to their peers for guidance.

This means the content a business pushes is almost as important as peer reviews, providing a ripe opportunity to create trust in-house. Get this right before you start looking for influencers elsewhere.